Review Summary: The Church has reopened, but is in desperate need of renovation.
Nostalgia is an important part of human nature. As humans, we reach a point in our lives where we find ourselves yearning for the past. We long for the days of old; a simpler time, a better time. Perhaps no band at present is more nostalgic than Metal Church, a thrash metal band hailing from San Francisco who rose to prominence in the 1980s. Metal Church's unique, highly-inventive brand of thrash metal made them one of the most influential bands of the decade. However, despite their success, they would find themselves struggling to keep their fanbase alive when thrash metal's popularity came to a screeching halt in the early 90s. In a desperate attempt to keep up with the times, Metal Church mimicked thrash metal contemporaries Metallica and Megadeth and hopped onto the radio-friendly hard rock bandwagon. However, unlike their contemporaries, Metal Church failed to find an audience; and due to numerous line up changes and a complete departure from their previous sound, they slowly faded out of existence, culminating in the band's breakup in 1994. Although they reunited in 1998 and released a string albums, their new, radio-friendly sound simply never caught on. Distraught by their mistreatment at the hands of the music industry, Metal Church disbanded once more in 2009. Even though this may have seemed like the end of their legacy, it was not so. Three short years later, Metal Church reassembled with only one thing in mind: a full-fledged comeback of epic proportions.
Metal Church's decision to return to their roots was, in hindsight, a logical one. The continued success of "New Wave of Thrash Metal" bands such as Revocation and Vektor made it abundantly clear that, in the year 2013, thrash metal was alive and well. This paved the path to Metal Church's tenth album, Generation Nothing
. As promised, this is pure, aggressive, speedy thrash, and draws obvious influences from the band's older material. While the album does succeed at replicating the raw energy and fast-paced aggression present in the band's classic releases, it nevertheless fails miserably to match them in quality. Generation Nothing
, more than anything else Metal Church have ever released, makes it clear that the band is completely past their prime.
While Metal Church attempt to sound like their former selves on Generation Nothing
, they do not push their sound far enough to follow through on such a commitment. Even from their formative years they have never been ones to play straightforward thrash, always mixing different styles of music, such as hard rock and power metal, into the equation. This, unfortunately, is where Metal Church completely missed the mark; the straightforward route taken on Generation Nothing
results in the band sounding both lazy and uninspired. Tracks such as "Bulletproof" and "Close to the Bone" fail to make an impression on the listener due to boring structure and generic riffs, and are easily forgotten as soon as they end. Dynamic song structure, high-energy, and a sense of unpredictability made songs on classic Metal Church releases extremely memorable. "Beyond the Black" from their self-titled album, for instance, consists of intense riffs which are both melodic and powerful, and violent lyrics concerning the death of humanity at the hands of atomic warfare. Metal Church play it safe on Generation Nothing
, refusing to take any risks. Due to this, lyrics are insipid, song structures are predictable and lazy, riffs are by-the-book, and the adventurous tone the band once adopted is, sadly, absent. There are exceptions to this rule on the album; however, they are few and far between.
In spite of most of the songs on the album sounding tame and uninspired, there are several standout tracks which, if nothing else, make for entertaining listens. "Dead City" sounds almost exactly like something that might be on The Dark
; the song is reminiscent of Metal Church's power metal material, with its catchy riff and melodic guitar solos. "Scream" is rather straightforward, but proves to be a memorable songs nonetheless due to its incredibly catchy chorus and groovy riff. Although the beginning of "Suiciety" sounds almost like a rehashing of the intro to the Megadeth song "In My Darkest Hour," is still one of the most captivating moments on the album. Unfortunately though, the rest of the song is far too bland to be considered a highlight. The best song on the album, without a doubt, is the nine-minute long epic, "Noises In the Wall." "Noises In the Wall" creeps in with dark ambiance, which builds over the course of the song's first minute before the inevitable explosion into the song's powerful riff occurs, catching the listener slightly off-guard. The song is made up of several different riffs, each one more exciting than the last. However, the most enjoyable element of the song is its dark, paranoid atmosphere. Although "Noises In the Wall" is the best song Metal Church have put out in years, it serves to juxtapose the lack of creativity behind the rest of the songs on the album.
Above all else, the lack of musicianship of Generation Nothing
prevents it from being the throwback that the band was attempting. Lead guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof once proved himself to be one of the premier guitarists of the 80s thrash metal scene. Here, however, his playing often sounds generic, especially when it comes to his riffing. Although he manages some truly impressive guitar solos over the course of the album, especially the melodic solos like the ones in "Dead City" and "Suiciety," the guitar work is considerably disappointing. For the fourth time on a Metal Church album, Ronny Munroe assumes the position of vocalist. Without question, his performance of this album is the most lackluster of his career. Munroe has shown in the past that he is a vocalist completely capable of heading Metal Church; his high-pitched voice fits perfectly with each and every one of the albums he's been on. Despite this, on Generation Nothing
, his vocals are far too simple, and become bland as a result. With the exception of a few moments during the album when he lets off a high-pitched scream or sings cleanly for a brief period of time, he takes little to no risks and his vocals sound nearly identical on each track. The songs' lyrics, however, are largely to blame for Munroe's vocal shortcomings. Over the course of the album, Munroe belts out lazily-written, horribly cliche lyrics such as "Shut your mouth, you little punk, 'cause you know just what I'll do...you pathetic, little fool."
As for the other members in the band, each one of them leave something to be desired. Among other things, Metal Church's classic releases were famous for their marvelous musicianship. Disappointingly, the undeniable skill of Metal Church's band members simply does not shine through on the album.
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. It gives us a beautiful reminder of how wonderful our past was; but it is important to remember that, to this past, we can never return. Metal Church's newest album, Generation Nothing
, is the perfect testament to this. When all is said and done, Metal Church no longer have the passion and energy that once popularized them. It is entirely unreasonable to think that, after having abandoned their classic sound nearly twenty-five years ago and after just recovering from a three-year breakup, they would be able to immediately rejoin the thrash metal bandwagon. However, it seems that nostalgia has gotten the best of Metal Church, and that is precisely what Generation Nothing
attempts to do, and needless to say, fails at.